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27 Things People Wish They Knew Before Getting Diagnosed With an Anxiety Disorder

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We don’t know what we don’t know. And when you’re struggling with anxiety — but don’t yet have an official diagnosis — it’s sometimes hard to understand your own experiences. Often times only after we have a better understanding of anxiety do we realize why we did the things we did, and felt the things we felt.

That’s why we asked our Mighty mental health community to share with us what they wish they knew before they got diagnosed with anxiety. Because getting the treatment and support you need as soon as possible is so important — and everyone deserves to understand what they’re going through.

Here is what our community had to say:

1. “No matter how well explained, no one truly understands unless they have it as well. What I experience is really there, even if the ones I love don’t see it.” — Tara F.

2. “I wish someone stopped me and told me it isn’t the end of the world. That no matter how bad the attack gets, the feelings will pass. To just take each second as it comes and push through it. Baby steps are progress.” — Jessica H.

3. “The physical impact it would have on me… It took four years of going to the doctor for physical issues for them to relate it back to anxiety.” — Antasia H.

4. “It’s not cute, it’s not the same as being shy or quiet. I fear for my family’s lives every day because my anxiety tells me they’re going to die. I’m scared to go outside on my own out of fear of being attacked. It’s not cute, it’s an illness and sometimes even a living hell.” — Becci P.

5. “It’s not just some ‘phase’ you can get over after taking countless medicines. It is something real, something scary and something that can eat you alive until you no longer want to live and to fight anymore.” — Dayahna J.

6. “How physically exhausting and mentally draining it is. Some days it’s all I can do just to get out of bed.” — Eva S.

7. “You can recover from anxiety and lead a life where it doesn’t control you — whether it’s exercise, meditation/mindfulness, healing, hypnotherapy. You don’t need to struggle all your life, just try everything till something clicks.” — Dave M.

8. “Anxiety takes you away from life. Your life. That warrior attitude people loved about me is gone. I used to be a flame and now I am embers. The hardest part to accept is that l will never be that person again. No one tells you that. They tell you that you can, you will. For some. Just not me.” — Tracey R.

9. “I wish I knew when I was sitting in class or church at 8 years old, with a horrible stomachache wanting to get out of there, that it was OK. I wish I knew when I was in college, dropping a class because I was so scared, that there were people I could have talked to. There are a lot of things I’d tell my younger self if I could. That’s why I’m trying to do better by my kiddo.” — Catherine A.

10. “What the symptoms were. So many times before I went to the doctor, I just assumed it was something else. I’m so glad I’m able to recognize my anxiety for what it is now.” — Reeny T.

11. “Anxiety manifests itself in a wide variety of ways and just because you aren’t showing the ‘classic’ symptoms of an anxiety attack doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Also that triggers can change based on the situation and what is going on. What you are fine with one day may trigger you the next and vice versa.” — Jessica E.

12. “It impacts more than just my body. My social life, school, work — everything was affected by my anxiety. As taxing as it has been on my body, it’s made getting older difficult too, because I don’t have many friends and I’m doing all the things now that my peers have already done. It took me a long time to get help, so I feel like I’m having to catch up, which adds to my anxiety as well.” — Brittany H.

13. “Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for me. It’s OK not to be OK, and I should not be ashamed that I have panic attacks. It’s OK to care for yourself and your mental health is just as important as your physical health.” — Jonna L.

14. “Medications take time. You can’t magically have the right concoction to help you. It might take months to find something that works.” — Abbi T.

15. “There are physical conditions that can cause anxiety attacks. I will survive them — I’m not going to ‘go crazy,’ lose control or die. And the more I face my fears the better I will get at dealing with them.” — Rena H.

16. “How bad panic attacks can get, and they can occur for literally no reason. I was on oxygen for two days because of one” — Katie S.

17. “How hard it will be to explain to your family and friends. Not every anxiety case is the same and no matter how well you feel you explained yourself you feel like they would only understand if they had it themselves.” — Cora S.

18. “Wanting to self-harm can be a symptom. For a long time I only thought it was a symptom of depression. I didn’t find this out until I started researching on my own.” — Stephanie S.

19. “I couldn’t fix it by trying to be something or someone else, and my character flaws weren’t me being a bad person.” — Michelle F.

20. “I was dealing with an illness and it wasn’t my fault. I wish I was told there was nothing wrong with me and I could learn to deal with these symptoms. People with anxiety can manage their symptoms and live productive lives.” — Julia L.

21. “I won’t just ‘grow out of it’ or that it’s not ‘just a phase.’ It’s something I will live with for the rest of my life, and there will be good and bad days.” — Katherine C.

22. “Anxiety would take all enjoyment out of all my hobbies. I would have spent more time doing them.” — Sarah H.

23. “The symptoms of anxiety for kids and teens come out differently than they do in adults.” — Tracey R.

24. “Feeling fearful for your life every time someone asks a question isn’t ‘normal.’” — Leanna R.

25. “Just how hard it is to talk about it. Beforehand, you have this idea that talking is so easy, that’s all people need to do. You put those people in a stereotype with a prejudice. Then you find yourself struggling with mental illness and suddenly you become that stereotype; you are your own prejudice. You learn it’s not as easy as you thought. It’s something that is needed so deeply and critically, but something so difficult to do.” — Mike M.

26. “It’s not all in my head, and it’s OK to ask for help without fear of being judged” — Dayna K.

27. “I wish I knew I  was going to be OK — I’m strong enough to cope with this.” — Illyana A.

What would you add?

Unsplash image via Larm Rmah

Originally published: May 3, 2018
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